“Creatures of Symbiosis and Decay”

courtesy of John Webster, of the SDMS, admittedly without explicit permission

courtesy of John Webster, of the SDMS, admittedly without explicit permission

so begins the section on mushrooms in Harold McGee’s On Food & Cooking (the official abbreviation for which miss hannah mae blair has so graciously informed me, is simply “Harold,” according, supposedly to the Oxford Manual of Style. what?)

anyway, thinking about rot. and the (un)easy slippage, the haunted imprecision of our thoughts about decay, fungus, bacteria, putrefaction, fermentation, etc. actually i have not  been thinking about the latter, but was just struck by the sudden realization of my own lack of mental clarity regarding their differences. the specificities of each are legion, but we totter and weave in and out of appropriate usage. do i understand the difference between mould and decay? putrefaction and fermentation? it is, for the moment, so much mysticism to me, but have faith – i do not intend to persist in ignorance for much longer.

anyway, what i have actually been about:
1. i am fascinated by lobster mushrooms. ever since i first saw and sampled, at a mushroom stand at the Jean-Talon market. not only because they are delicious (they taste faintly of lobster, go figure) and striking to the eye (they look rather like lobster, alors), but because they are not in fact merely mushrooms, but may be one of a handful of mushrooms that have been colonized by a wholly other species of fungus that over time radically alters their appearance, twisting and and involuting their surfaces and imparting the characteristic texture and orange colour and of cooked lobster carapace. this idea of imposed organic transformation takes and shakes me somewhat by the collarbones. if only they were there (to buy and eat) when i needed them. which is to say, on a whim.

2. side note: mushroom cell walls are made, not of cellulose like most plants, but of chitin, like the exoskeletons of insects and crustaceans. neat. i have always loved the word chitin (which comes to us, via french [chitine], from the greek khiton, for a frock or tunic), and by way of further tangent, Chitin was the name of my mantis-man (or “plated folk,” referring to the analogous similarity of the insect exoskeleton and medieval plate mail) character when i used to as a child play Fighting Fantasy (a homemade role-playing game) with my brother.

3. i would like to familiarize myself with more of the noble rot wines. just sufficiently to now what i’m talking about and/or tasting. a fine depth and sweetness, which provides the excuse to like an asshole use the term “noble rot” in daily conversation? how can i resist? i don’t think i’ve ever even tasted a tokaji, although i did go to a hungarian restaurant once, with yielded ultimately disappointing results. although the elderly woman waiting on us did admirably almost conceal her contempt for us and our shabby dress.

4. more on wine, and in my opinion wise words for the cultivation of company.

si bona vina cupis, quinque haec
laudantur in illis
fortia, formosa, et fragrantia
frigida, frisca


if you desire good wine, these five
things are praised in them:
strength, beauty, fragrance,
coolness, freshness

-from the Medical School of Salerno Regimen of Health, ~900 CE

5. finally, lines about wine in Morrissey i have found consistently to lodge themselves in my memory. “bought on stolen wine, a nod was the first step. you knew very well what would happen next…” from I Don’t Owe You Anything, and of course from Rusholme Ruffians, but not about wine at all,

the last night of the fair
by the bigwheel generator
a boy is stabbed and his money is grabbed
and the air hangs heavy like a dulling wine

but my faith in love is still devout
then someone falls in love
and someone’s beaten up
and the senses being dulled are mine


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